Thousands of years ago, humans relied on hunting, fishing, and gathering to provide food for their families. They looked to find edible plants for food. Soon people realized they could grow these plants. They also found they could make clothing out of plant fibers, or threads. People used cotton and flax to make clothing. This was the very beginning of farming. People had to learn how to prepare, or cultivate the soil for planting crops. They learned how to breed, or grow plants. They learned how to process, or change plants to grow what they wanted. Agriculture is an approach of growing crops – later on it matured into a science. Agriculture has used advancements in technology to improve the methods for growing and harvesting crops.Farm EquipmentA farmer plants crops in shallow trenches. Sowing the seeds is another way to describe the process of planting. Furrows are shallow trenches that look like narrow grooves in the ground. The farmer turns over the dirt to mix nutrients into the soil. Plants need various types of nutrients to stay healthy. Farmers also turn the ground in order to loosen the soil and give seeds room to grow.One invention designed to break up soil is the plow. A plow is a piece of metal shaped liked a V in the front. It digs furrows when dragged along the ground. A farmer pushes the plow from behind or pulls it from the front. He may also use an animal like a horse or an ox to push or pull the plow. A tractor is used to pull many farming machines. Tractors are a type of vehicle which has large wheels to keep it from sinking in mud.Commonly Cultivated PlantsSickles and ReapersFarmers need to harvest the crops, or cut them down and gather the usable portions after they have grown to full size. People can cut crops by hand. One invention they can use to make the job easier is a sickle. A sickle is a tool with a sharp curved blade. Harvesting with a sickle is hard work and takes a long time. The reaper is another invention. This is a machine that cuts wheat and other grains using many blades. It works much faster than a sickle.Cotton GinFollowing the harvest, there is sometimes more work to do. Farmers must process some crops before they are used. For example, cotton grows in balls with many small seeds. The cotton fibers must be unwound and someone must remove all the seeds. People then make thread from the cotton. A worker will weave the thread into fabric for clothes.ChemicalsFertilizersFertilizers are substances that add nutrients to the soil to help plants grow. Natural fertilizers have been used for centuries. They include manure, or the excrement of animals. They also include guano, which is made of bird and bat droppings.Compost is a mixture of decaying plant material, and people use it as a fertilizer. Some farmers use chemical fertilizers to help their crops grow. Chemicals are things which may be found in nature or created in a laboratory.Protecting PlantsSome farmers use poisons to protect their crops from weeds and insects. Herbicides are chemicals that destroy unwanted plants. Many people spray herbicides to kill weeds. Pesticides are small chemical compound that kill insects. An aphid is a type of insect that will eat the leaves of a farmer’s crops. Other types of insects that can destroy plants are locusts and weevils. Farmers will spray pesticides to prevent these insects from destroying their crops.Organic FarmingOrganic farming is a natural way of farming. It is the practice of raising plants, especially fruits and vegetables, without the use of synthetic pesticides. Many people believe using harsh chemicals on plants or produce can be harmful to the health of the humans who regularly use the foods which have been exposed to chemicals. Organic farmers use only things naturally occurring in nature, such as manure to help plants grow. Organic farming does not use chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides.